The Waiting Room

Once he heard it, he felt relieved.
Not sad, not mad, not even afraid, but relieved.
Relieved that he was finally falling
into this black hole he had been
tiptoeing around for months, not knowing whether
this dull yet ever present pain inside
his body that he dared not touch
or speak of was the beginning
of an end. How many nights has he lain
awake on the cold bathroom tiles, slowly
trailing his fingers to its core, feverish
with doubt, unable to say one true thing about it.
Once or twice, he sensed something, a pulse, a rhythm,
a dark quickening that was unlike life. It was
unlike anything he had ever known. Afterwards
the nurse came out to talk to him, with carefully chosen
words that meant to give him just enough
to go on hoping that he might be the exception,
one in a hard million, a lucky star. It was cruel.
Nevertheless, he listened, and smiled,
almost too cheerfully, at the nurse, while
silently congratulating himself for no longer
having to be burdened with this fear
of falling into the black hole. Now that
the fall has begun, he can just keep on falling
until he meets it at the end. And when there was
nothing more to say, he left the waiting room,
and strode into the crisp autumn afternoon.
The fearless angel and the wicked dragon
alone in the dark wood.

Good As New

They picked me out of a hodgepodge toy box
and placed me in a white bed of angels, white-smocked
boys and girls stood over me with pencils and erasers
as if I was a tough one to crack, as if something
was multiplying exponentially inside of me.
The nurse put me in a swollen dress someone’s aunt died in
and said tomorrow I should be good as new, oh good as new,
I wondered whom else she said it to, did she say it to
the girl on the other side of the wall who searched
for her left breast with her right hand, who searched
for her left breast with her right hand all night.

By the time they put me in a tumbrel bound for the guillotine,
I already saw the anaesthetist’s red-rimmed eyes,
the surgeon’s red-bladed scythe. Their salted breath
fell on my neck, as Marie Antoinette’s high-wigged head
sagged over the red elms. It was then that I sensed
the place the scalpel was headed, the incision cold and precise.
If I wasn’t afraid, then nothing will ever make me afraid.
The moment I awoke, a distant voice spoke, the words came
undone one stitch at a time, my beautiful rhymes broken,
my lovely years gone, oh my beautiful rhymes broken,
my lovely years gone, gone, gone.

Whatever they took from me turned, turned its color
under the sun, and I was forbidden to go under the sun.
Still, I ran out of the sterile ward at five o’clock and found nothing more
alive than myself, wearing this gauzy dress someone’s aunt died in,
standing between the mossy stones and a lost bee.
I tiptoed around this sudden hole in my belly, catching earthly
elements released from my mother’s womb, and her mother’s,
and her mother’s, and her mother’s, houses of heirlooms. If only I knew
how to return to the warmth of her womb. If only I knew
how to have her bear me again at full moon, a perfect little doll,
seamlessly patched-up, and almost, almost, almost, good as new.

 

Originally published inĀ Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, issue 9.